(ran EO edition)
When Chris Ellison, 22, left for Parris Island, S.C., and U.S. Marine boot camp in 1999, his mom, Carol, felt isolated and alone.
She explored the Internet searching for other parents in the same situation and discovered Marine Moms Online.
"It opened up a whole new world to me," the Ridgemoor resident said.
Marine Moms Online is an international online group of more than 2,800 parents, spouses and siblings of Marines and also includes active and retired military personnel.
The group provides information and support to Marines and their families. For Ellison, it has also been a starting point for some strong local friendships.
"We are a very tightknit group," she said. "And, we all know that no matter what our Marines are going through, there are other people who have been through it."
Ellison and another local Marine mom, Kathy Dreyer, are planning the second annual Marine Moms Online Family Picnic at Phillippe Park in Safety Harbor at 11 a.m. Dec. 8. It is open to any Marines and their families.
Participants are asked to bring their own food, beverages, charcoal and folding chairs. Ellison said last year more than 40 people attended and this year she expects up to 100 or more.
In addition to supporting each other online, members also provide support to Marines and their families all over the world, Ellison said.
When a Marine is killed, members of the group travel to attend the funeral. If a Marine is injured and forced to spend the holidays on base, members visit with gifts and goody bags.
People have offered their homes to stranded service men and women and have delivered birthday cakes to Marines who are on duty and cannot leave the base.
"We live by the Marine motto, Semper Fi, which means "Always Faithful,' " Ellison said.
Last year, Ellison traveled to Camp Pendleton, Calif., where her son is stationed. She and her family delivered presents to injured Marines who were unable to leave for Christmas.
"It was an unbelievable experience," she said.
Call (727) 789-6069 or e-mail gruntmom1hotmail.com.
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